Texas attorney general Greg Abbott likes to joke that his job is simple: "I go into the office, I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home." But it’s not just Republicans attorneys general who are taking the president to court these days. Forget impeachment—increasingly, House Republicans are using personal lawsuits as a way to rein in what they view as unchecked presidential power on everything from the Affordable Care Act to immigration reform to nuclear weapons.
"It appears right now that we may have to do it, that I may have to do it, or somebody may have to do it, as an individual, outside of Congress, to litigate on one of these issues," Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) told a local radio station last week. Coffman, who got in trouble last May when he suggested that Obama was foreign born and not eligible for office, didn't elaborate on which executive overreach set him off, although he discussed the nuclear agreement with Iran and the 2012 decision on welfare as possible violations. By Monday, his office had walked back Coffman's litigation threat, but the congressman is in good company.
As the Obama administration continues to unsuck its health care website, one questions lingers: How did this important government project get so screwed up? If you ask technologist Clay Johnson, the insurance exchange's problems began, in a way, in 1995, when "Congress decided to lobotomize itself."
Johnson was referring to a specific action lawmakers took then: They killed a tiny federal agency called the Office of Technology Assessment. Established in 1972 as Congress' nonpartisan in-house think tank, the OTA studied new technologies and offered recommendations on how Washington could adapt to them. But then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) turned off its lights.
Today, members of Congress have legislative counsels to help draft laws. They have the Congressional Budget Office to analyze how much laws will cost. But they don't have the OTA's experts to tell them how those laws will work.
"An OTA review might have prevented some heartburn and embarrassment" associated with the Healthcare.gov rollout, argues Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), an astrophysicist who has previously introduced legislation that would resurrect the agency.
Warning Congress about problems with Healthcare.gov—and explaining them—would have been right in OTA's wheelhouse. The office, Rep. George Brown (D-Calif.) dryly remarked in 1995, was a "defense against the dumb." During its 24-year existence, the agency developed a reputation for sharp, foresighted analysis on the problems of the new information age: It called for a new, reinforced tanker design a decade before the Exxon-Valdez spill; emphasized the danger of fertilizer bombs 15 years before Oklahoma City; predicted in 1982 that email would render the postal service obsolete; and warned that President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (better known as "Star Wars") would likely result in a "catastrophic failure" if it were ever used.
Analyzing health care spending was one of OTA's specialties. One of its final reports, "Bringing Health Care Online," published in 1995, focused on the potential (and potential for mishaps) in electronic data interchanges. "Changes in the health care delivery system, including the emergence of managed health care and integrated delivery systems, are breaking down the organizational barriers that have stood between care providers, insurers, medical researchers, and public health professionals," the report warned.
Gay people recruit small children in public schools and S&M accidents are a leading cause of death in San Francisco, according to a 1985 newsletter from the American Legislative Exchange Council, the national, corporate-funded conservative group best known for pushing Stand Your Ground laws and union-busting bills.
More MoJo reporting on the American Legislative Exchange Council.
The report was dug up and highlighted by the liberal watchdog group People for the American Way, which is organizing a protest of this week's ALEC conference in Washington, DC. Titled "Homosexuals: Just Another Minority Group?" the report reads today like the script for a bizarre nature channel program on gay people. In it, ALEC outlines six primary types of gay people: "the blatant"; "the secret lifer"; "the desperate"; "the adjusted"; "the bisexual"; and "the situational." (The "blatant" homosexual "is the obvious 'limp-wristed' individual who typifies stereotype of the 'average' homosexual.")
According to the report, 10 percent of all homicides in San Francisco at one point in the 1980s were "a result of S&M accidents among homosexuals."
The newsletter also serves as a cheat-sheet for gay men or women looking to meet like-minded people. "If a bar scene is preferred, the 'Gayellow Pages,' helps the homosexual find appropriate meeting places for socializing with other homosexuals," the report says. If that doesn't work, the newsletter discusses "public restrooms" and "massage parlors" as havens for "the desperate homosexual." Gay people even had their own language: "The homosexual's vocabulary is another part of their culture that separates them from the heterosexual mainstream."
The ALEC newsletter asserted that homosexuality was not only a choice ("the homosexual makes the conscious choice to pursue members of his/her own sex"), but one that its practitioners often came to regret. "Tom Minnery, who writes for Christianity Today, has written about homosexuals forsaking their homosexuality upon becoming Christian," the newsletter notes. "He says, 'the fact is, many people are experiencing deliverance from homosexuality. The evidence is too great to deny it.'"
But those who refused to abandon their homosexual urges were a risk to public health and children, according to ALEC. "Whatever the type of homosexual, one of the more dominant practices within the homosexual world is pedophilia, the fetish for young children," warned the newsletter. The reason for this was simple. "What is important to remember here is the fact that homosexuals cannot reproduce themselves biologically so they must recruit the young." And gay people came at a significant cost to the taxpayers, in the form of research for infectious diseases and tax-exempt status for LGBT nonprofits. "In addition to federal funding of AIDS research, the federal government has been active in funding the homosexual movement."
The report even took aim at the early stages of gay rights legislation, which the ALEC newsletter warned would force conservatives into uncomfortable and perhaps dangerous situations. Under new anti-discrimination laws for some public employees, "[p]arents will no longer be able to keep their children out from under the tutelage of homosexuals." Bans on LGBT discrimination in housing would mean "landlords will be forced to rent their property to a homosexual couple even if the landlord's family shares the same building." But the most ominous piece legislation concerned a proposal to end LGBT discrimination in immigration: "This bill would permit known homosexuals from other countries to become citizens of the U.S."
Update: ESPN is reporting that Jameis Winston will not be charged in connection to an alleged sexual assault last December.
In November, TMZreported that a former Florida State University student had accused the school's quarterback, Jameis Winston, of rape nearly a year ago. The accuser's lawyer says that after she came forward the Tallahassee police tried to dissuade her from pressing charges, warning her that the city is "a big football town" that might not treat her warmly if she leveled these allegations. Indeed, since her charges became public, some Seminoles fans have floated conspiracy theories that a rival school or Heisman Trophy contender may have put the accuser up to it. Prosecutors, for their part, will hold a press conference on Thursday afternoon to announce whether they'll go forward with the case.
Ultimately, Winston—whose DNA was found at the scene and who claims the sex was consensual—may not be charged. But the case has highlighted a disturbing and long-standing pattern in college football. At top football schools the sport is a major moneymaker, and many big-name universities (and law enforcement authorities in those jurisdictions) have too often shielded players accused of rape—even going so far as to smear and punish victims who speak out. Here's a brief guide to college football's sordid history of addressing sexual assault:
Summary: Eddie discovers the true meaning of Christmas after getting an ugly sweater.
Excerpt: "Eddie shook his snow globe one last time and placed it on the dresser beside his bed. He watched the snowstorm swirl and thought about the one gift he wanted most for Christmas—a new bicycle."
Don't tell the kids: A pair of artisanal, selvage blue jeans from Beck's personal brand sell for $129 a pair.